Impact of Backbone Tether Length and Structure on the Electrochemical Performance of Viologen Redox Active Polymers

Mark Burgess, Etienne Chénard, Kenneth Hernández-Burgos, Gavvalapalli Nagarjuna, Rajeev S. Assary, Jingshu Hui, Jeffrey S. Moore, Joaquín Rodríguez-López

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The design of chemically stable and electrochemically reversible redox active polymers (RAPs) is of great interest for energy storage technologies. Particularly, RAPs are new players for flow batteries relying on a size-exclusion based mechanism of electrolyte separation, but few studies have provided detailed molecular understanding of redox polymers in solution. Here, we use a systematic molecular design approach to investigate the impact of linker and redox-pendant electronic interactions on the performance of viologen RAPs. We used scanning electrochemical microscopy, cyclic voltammetry, bulk electrolysis, temperature-dependent absorbance, and spectroelectrochemistry to study the redox properties, charge transfer kinetics, and self-exchange of electrons through redox active dimers and their equivalent polymers. Stark contrast was observed between the electrochemical properties of viologen dimers and their corresponding polymers. Electron self-exchange kinetics in redox active dimers that only differ by their tether length and rigidity influences their charge transfer properties. Predictions from the Marcus-Hush theory were consistent with observations in redox active dimers, but they failed to fully capture the behavior of macromolecular systems. For example, polymer bound viologen pendants, if too close in proximity, do not retain chemical reversibility. In contrast to polymer films, small modifications to the backbone structure decisively impact the bulk electrolysis of polymer solutions. This first comprehensive study highlights the careful balance between electronic interactions and backbone rigidity required to design RAPs with superior electrochemical performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7362-7374
Number of pages13
JournalChemistry of Materials
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 25 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Materials Chemistry

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